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Three Things You Can Do to Help Prevent Suicide

Son hugs his own fatherToo many lives have been touched by suicide. This Suicide Awareness Week (September 9-16), consider these three things you can do to help prevent this tragedy.

Open your ears and extend compassion.

Being willing to listen to someone is a quiet but significant gesture of support. Be present with the person struggling as a nonjudgmental witness. You’re not there to fix the situation or to fix them: they’re not broken. They are hurting, and you may not understand completely why. A deep sense of isolation is often part of suicidal feelings. You don’t have to feign positivity or happiness. Instead, acknowledge & empathize with the person’s feeling of distress. And in doing so, show them that you care and are by their side.

Communicate openly and directly.

Set aside your fears about social etiquette. Be compassionate and be kind, but now is not the time to beat around the bush. Ask the person you are concerned about directly and in a balanced tone: Are you contemplating killing yourself? Or: Do you feel suicidal? If they suggest that they are or do, follow up by asking gently: Do you have a plan?

Remember: talking about the reality of someone’s experience could help relieve some of the intense pain and pressure they are feeling. It may open the forum for them to express or reflect on these feelings. Open sharing can begin to rebuild social trust. It is always better to ask, rather than leaving things unsaid.

Take what they told you seriously.

Know the warning signs. If you see that someone is in imminent danger, contact a crisis center or other healthcare professional immediately.

If someone is not exhibiting the warning signs, but expresses despair or suicidal feelings, ask them openly what you can do to help. Commit to actions that you can keep, and express your support not just with words but with your time and input. If they don’t readily ask for help, suggest going with them to a support group or therapy appointment. Offer to call or text regularly to check in, and follow through. These simple gestures can make a massive difference in the life of someone who is struggling with the weight of suicidal feelings.

Never dismiss someone’s admission of suicidal thoughts, or feelings of intense despair, as “no big deal.”

Remember: suicidal feelings, thoughts, and attempts are an expression of pain, and a request for support. Each action you take with compassion and understanding is an action that can help prevent suicide.

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